Natural help for pain

October 13, 2009


I have known Patrick Holford for many years, and his nutritional advice is always sound and on target. I thought you would be interested in his thoughts on treating pain naturally, particularly the importance of healing the gut, easily damaged by painkillers, with a combination of digestive enzymes, probiotics and glutamine, and identifying and eliminating food allergies.

His top six natural pain killers are these:

1. Turmeric

Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, works as well as anti-inflammatory drugs, but without the side effects. Like NSAIDs, it blocks the formation of the pro-inflammatory prostaglandins (PGE2), as well as leukotrienes. It has been used for its medicinal properties in Ayurveda for hundreds of years and there is no evidence of any downsides, even in high doses of 8g a day.

2. Olives

Olive extract decreases levels of pro-inflammatory substances and reduces levels of two inflammatory messengers called TNF-alpha and interleukin-8. In one study with mice, the extract reduced TNF-alpha levels by 95% and some of the newest pain-killing drugs work by reducing TNF-alpha.

3. Extract of hops

An extract from hops, called isooxygene, is anti-inflammatory and one of the most effective natural painkillers of all. Not only is it almost as effective as ibuprofen, but it also doesn’t have the gut-related side effects of anti-inflammatory drugs. This is because ibuprofen also inhibits COX-1 (the so called ‘good’ COX, because it produces prostacyclin, which protects the gut lining), whereas the hop extract does not.

4. Quercitin

Many plant foods contain flavonoid compounds, which are known to inhibit inflammation. One of the most potent is quercitin and just one red onion, or a cup of berries, or three servings of greens provides about 10mg of quercitin. Other good sources include red wine, tea, grapefruit, broccoli, squash, red grapes, cranberries and citrus fruits. This is one reason why vegetarian diets have proven highly effective in reducing pain and inflammation. However, taking fifty times this amount, 500mg a day, quercitin becomes a potent anti-inflammatory inhibiting the production of the pro-inflammatory prostaglandins (type 2) and also inhibiting the release of histamine, which is involved in inflammatory reactions.

5. Glucosamine

Glucosamine is proven to slow progression of osteoarthritis of the knee and good quality evidence shows it works as well as ibuprofen but with less side-effects. Although there is evidence that chondroitin works, the research does not show that it works better than glucosamine. Most of the research has been done using glucosamine sulphate, but the most absorbable form is glucosamine hydrochloride. Promising results are reported for pain relief and relief from arthritis in people taking daily supplements supplying 1 to 3g of one of the most effective sources of sulphur, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM). A combination of both glucosamine and MSM is particularly effective.

6. Omega 3

There’s no question about the benefits of upping your intake of omega 3s. A meta-analysis of 17 randomized, controlled trials assessing the pain relieving effects of omega-3 PUFAs in patients with rheumatoid arthritis or joint pain found that supplementation with EPA rich Omega 3 fats for 3-4 months reduces patient reported joint pain intensity, minutes of morning stiffness, number of painful and/or tender joints and NSAID consumption.

Putting it all together

The real magic comes when you take all these together. In practical terms this means both eating more of all these foods on a daily basis and supplementing 2 EPA rich omega 3 fish oil capsules, aiming for 1,000mg of EPA a day and combination supplements of these other natural remedies.

You need at least 1 gram of glucosamine to make a difference and almost as much MSM. With the right combination formula containing most of the above you’ll probably need 2 a day to maintain freedom from pain, 4 a day if you are in pain and 6 a day for acute pain.

If you’d like to know more details about the exact doses, and the research, read the new edition of Patrick Holford’s book, Say No to Arthritis, which I have personally recommended to many sufferers for its effectiveness. For news of his talks, workshops and other books visit his website at


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One Response to “Natural help for pain”

  1. chrlsfnkl11 on October 21st, 2009 6:02 am

    Thanks for the post!The post is very informative.

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